by Mike Kowis, Esq.
Self-publishing a quality book can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. How do I know this? I recently launched my second book, a self-publishing guide entitled 14 Steps to Self-Publishing a Book. In it, I compared the cost of self-publishing my award-winning debut book (Engaging College Students: A Fun and Edgy Guide for Professors) to the cost of self-publishing my new book. Admittedly, I spent WAY MORE greenbacks to create my first book than I ever imagined (~$7k including marketing costs through its first 90 days). I was purposely more frugal when I birthed my new book (~$1,500 including marketing through its first 90 days). The following list explains the ten ways I saved $$$ to write, self-publish and market my second book.
- Use a Single Website;
- Buy Ten ISBN Numbers;
- Use a Shorter Length;
- Avoid Developmental Edits;
- Re-use Author Pic;
- Choose Vendors Wisely;
- Avoid Releases;
- Give eBook Review Copies;
- Limit Book Contests; and
- Limit Distribution and Formats.
Now let’s walk through these in more detail…
1. Use a Single Website: When I selected a domain name for my first book’s website, I didn’t think about future books. In retrospect, it would have been smart for me to pick a website based on my author name (Mike Kowis, Esq.) and use it to list all of my books. But I didn’t do that and later I was faced with the decision of whether to spend another $300 on a new domain name, 3-year webhosting contract and theme package for my second book. To save money, I added new pages to my first book’s website that display my new book and its many benefits. This arrangement seems to work okay. If my second book becomes a big seller, I may eventually upgrade to a new website for it. Fingers crossed. 🙂
2. Buy Ten ISBN Numbers: One smart thing I did while creating my first book was to buy a pack of ten ISBN numbers instead of buying individual ISBN numbers. The Bowker’s website gives a nice discount for purchasing ISBN numbers in bulk rather than singles. For example, this site currently charges $125 for a single ISBN, or $295 for ten ($29.50 each). Choosing the latter option is a no brainer, especially when you consider that a single book title may require multiple ISBNs (one for hard cover, one for paperback, one for Kindle eBook, one for other brand eBook, plus more for each additional language the book is translated into). I only used four ISBN numbers for my first book, so I didn’t need to spend additional money to purchase ISBN numbers for my new book.
3. Use a Shorter Length: Many copyeditors charge per word for their service. The price can range anywhere from 1 cent to 5 cents per word depending on the experience level of the copyeditor, but I found 3 cents per word is the most common price when I shopped around. Lucky for me, my new book is 20k words shorter than my first book and that resulted in about $1k savings on copyediting. Sometimes it pays to shut up!
4. Avoid Developmental Edits: Developmental edits are sometimes a necessary evil if the author is struggling to put the story together or if she comes down with a serious case of writer’s block. The latter happened to me not once, but twice while I worked on my first book. Because I didn’t need this type of editing for my new book, I saved another grand.
5. Re-use Author Pic: Not everyone bothers to get a professional photo for your book’s author pic, but I did. This small expense (~$150) was important for my brand and I used it in several places (back cover of my first book, the book’s website, social media sites, etc.). To save a few bucks, I re-used the same author pic for my new book.
6. Choose Vendors Wisely: I had different goals for my first book than my new book. For starters, my first book’s competition is mostly traditionally published and professional looking books. So to compete, I decided to spare no expense when it came to hiring what I thought were the very best vendors for services such as copyediting, book cover design, interior formatting and eBook conversion, etc. I also wanted my first book to be top quality because I put four years of my life into it and wanted the final product to reflect all the time and effort that went into it. For my second book, I wanted to put a high-quality book that had a better chance of financial success (meaning it would one day sell enough books to pay for itself and earn a profit). One of the ways I accomplished this was to be more choosey regarding the vendors that I hired for the various services. For example, the book cover designer only charged $300 for my new book as compared to ~$850 charged by the designer for my first book. Similarly, the graphic designer for my new book only charged $125 for interior formatting and eBook conversion and additional edits as compared to $500 charged by the graphic designer for my first book.
7. Avoid Releases: For my first book, I spent a hundred bucks for a release from someone described in the book. This payment was for written permission to use his likeness and quotes. I avoided this expense for my second book by not quoting anyone or using their likeness. Some authors choose to obtain written permission without giving compensation, but I prefer to pay compensation in some amount to improve odds that the release will be upheld if challenged in court.
8. Give eBook Review Copies: The market strategy used for my first and second books were quite different. For my first book (which provides college teaching tips), I purchased 150 paperback copies at a total cost of $1,050 including shipping costs. I sent these freebie review copies to various book reviewers (including my former students, family, friends, co-workers, and well-known Amazon book reviewers), colleges, book contest winners and news media. The goal was to promote the book and (hopefully) receive some honest book reviews on sites like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. To save a chuck of money on my second book, I only purchased 30 paperback copies and gave away more copies of the eBook and digital version (PDF file) of this book. This saved money not only on the actual purchase price of the print books, but also on the cost to ship the print books to myself and then ship them to the recipient. To encourage honest book reviews of my second book, I purchased an Amazon review package from Self-Publishing Review (SPR) at a cost of ~$300. This package is similar to BookBub’s mail-out service in the sense that SPR will share my eBook (priced at $2.99 or less) to enough of their email list to (hopefully) result in eight to ten Amazon reviews by verified purchasers. It’s important to note that Amazon’s average book ranking from reviewers is skewed more towards rankings made by verified purchasers rather than by unverified purchasers (which include folks who purchased the book from another source outside of Amazon, purchased the book through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program or received a free review copy). SPR also offers more expensive packages that usually result in more book reviews, but I wanted to limit my spending to their cheapest package to save money.
9. Limit Book Contests: Part of my strategy for both of my books included entering book contests. This strategy is not uniformly embraced by authors. Some feel that most book contest are little more than expensive lotteries that are intended to generate profits for the organizer and offer little to no real prestige for the winners. Others view book contests a beneficial way to promote their book and also receive personal validation of the author’s writing chops. In addition, winning a book contest allows the author to advertise the book as “award-winning” in advertisements and on the book’s website. I fall in the latter category and entered my first book in ten book contests at an expense of approximately $800. Luckily, my gamble has already paid off when my debut book was recently selected as the solo Medalist Winner in the Education category of the 2016 New Apple Book Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing. To reduce my costs for my new book, I plan to enter it in only six book contests at a total cost of ~$400. PRO TIP: Authors should do their homework when considering book contests because some offer nothing more to winners other than a handful of stickers to place on your book’s cover and a listing on their website. Check out book contests here.
10. Limit Distribution and Formats: For my first book, I wanted to make it available to as many buyers as possible and in all versions including hard cover, paperback, Kindle eBook and non-Kindle eBook (such as Nook, Kobo, Apple iBook, etc.). To that end, I decided to distribute my book through CreateSpace and KDP, which distribute paperback and Kindle eBooks respectively on Amazon. If the author chooses CreateSpace’s extended distribution option, their book can also be distributed through Ingram Spark’s distribution channels (minus libraries if the author uses her own ISBN number). I did not choose CreateSpace’s extended distribution option. Rather, I chose to directly distribute my first book through Ingram Spark. This allowed my book to be available to Ingram Spark’s full distribution channels (including libraries) and also to publish my book in hard cover format to be sold on both Amazon and all of Ingram Spark’s distribution channels. To cut costs, I chose to skip Ingram Spark distribution for my second book and instead publish it exclusively through CreateSpace (including their extended distribution channels) and KDP. This decision saves money because authors must pay book designers to create a special book cover for the hard cover version (not the same as the paperback cover) and also pay annual fees to Ingram Spark to distribute their book directly through them (no such fees are incurred through CreateSpace and KDP).
You can read more about the cost to self-publish a book in my NEW self-publishing guide called 14 STEPS TO SELF-PUBLISHING A BOOK (please click this link to find out more!)
Copyright © 2017 Mike Kowis, Esq.